Ghanaian scientist’s defib project helping to save lives 4,000

A healthcare scientist is helping save lives more than 4,000 miles away by sending old defibrillators from the Aberdeen to Ghana.

Julius Donkor, senior cardiac physiologist donates used/old defibs to Ghana.
Julius Donkor, senior cardiac physiologist, with a defib.

Julius Donkor, senior cardiac physiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI), has packed off more than 100 of the vital devices to the West African nation, in a project branded “quite unprecedented” in its scale.

The life-saving pieces of equipment have been replaced with more modern versions in the north-east.

The 43-year-old healthcare sciences lead said: “I was born in Ghana and lived there until I was about 13 when I moved to London to join my parents.

“I came to Aberdeen to study when I was 19 years old and I’ve never left.

“On a recent visit to Ghana, my granny was admitted with a mild pulmonary embolism in one of the main hospitals in Accra.

“That was my first exposure to the health service in Ghana and from what I saw, although the staff are brilliant and very knowledgeable, the resources were really limited. So I made a vow to myself that when I came back I’d do all I could to help.

“So since then I’ve been collecting old and disused equipment and shipping it all over.

“Recently I came across a defibrillator that was being decommissioned.

“We’re not allowed to use them here anymore and I requested them for Ghana and was given them by NHS Grampian.”

Julius’ 87-year-old grandmother still lives in Ghana and thinks her grandson’s efforts are “amazing”, with her local hospital directly benefiting.

He has collected not just from ARI, but facilities across the Grampian region.

The defibrillators will be handed over to the Christian Hospitals Association of Ghana – an umbrella body of hospitals not operated by the government.

The scientist will even give up his own holiday time to travel to Africa next month to train hundreds of staff in how to use the devices.

He said: “The medics out there are really happy they are getting this.

“Very few hospitals have defibrillators and those that do tend to be private hospitals.”

“I’m grateful to NHS Grampian for allowing me to do this.

“I’ve had a lot of support from other people around the department and the wider community.

“The Church of Christ on George Street has spent a lot of money buying accessories for the defibrillators – you need pads, gels and other things that are needed but the hospitals might not be able to afford.

“The church has been absolutely great.

“All the Church of Christ congregations in the UK have been coming together to fund my whole trip including my ticket and accommodation – everyone is involved in it and it’s a very big thing.”

Healthcare sciences lead at NHS Grampian Chris Llewellyn said: “This is a huge project on a scale that is quite unprecedented.

“This will be truly, truly life-saving.

“A lot of people suffer cardiac arrest during the acute phase of care who will go on to have an okay quality of life afterwards – but without defibrillators they just die. It will make a massive difference.

“On top of that, Julius is using his own holidays to go over and train the staff in how to use them.

“Big charities struggle to deliver projects like this and Julius has pretty much done it on his own. It’s on a scale you would not expect – 100-plus hospitals.”